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Canada’s Marco Arop sets sights on Tokyo

Canada tallied five medals at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, so it was not surprising that Marco Arop’s excellent seventh-place finish in the 800m would be somewhat buried in the team’s performance review.

Just 21 years old at the time, the tall Sudan-born runner had earned the Pan American title two months earlier, running a then personal best of 1:44.25. But few expected him to survive the harsh preliminary rounds in Doha which required tactical nuance, stamina and most importantly experience at the highest level. Clearly the young man was up to the challenge and has immense potential.

Despite the uncertainty caused by a world pandemic, Arop has continued to make progress this year, setting a new personal best of 1:44.14 while finishing third at the Wanda Diamond League meeting in Monaco last month. That extraordinary result was followed by two second-place finishes in Bydgoszcz and Stockholm. In the latter he led down the home straight but couldn’t hold off world champion Donavan Brazier. Still, he ran a very good 1:44.67.

But it was the Monaco result which stoked his confidence, particularly since it was three seconds faster than his season opener in Atlanta, a four-and-a-half hour drive from his apartment in Starkville, Mississippi.

“I ended up running 1:47 high in Atlanta and I could feel there was so much more left in the tank,” he remembers. “Coming into Monaco I wanted to run fast and I was just lucky enough to be able to travel there and have that calibre of competition there. It was the perfect set up, the perfect race for me.”

Shortly after his brief European excursion, he returned to his training base in Starkville where he voluntarily quarantined for 14 days. Although he has a year and a half of academic studies in business information systems to complete, he chose to forego his eligibility at Mississippi State University to accept a contract from Adidas. Now, with a positive frame of mind, he believes an Olympic podium finish is attainable.

“Definitely! That’s just the way I have to look at it if I want to succeed,” he says. “It’s a long way from (now until) Tokyo 2021 and I am just hoping that I will be ready come the day and I am doing whatever I can to stay healthy, stay fit and become stronger.

“My goal is to win the Olympics. I know there are some really great competitors out there and I respect them all. But, at the end of the day, I want to win just as much as anybody else.”

That might be construed as youthful naïveté especially since he only became serious about athletics in his senior year at Edmonton’s St Oscar Romero Catholic High School – barely three years ago. Nevertheless, under the tutelage of Voleo Athletics Club coach Ron Thompson, Arop has become a quick study in 800-metre running, latching on to heroes from the past whose physical size equals his own 1.93m height.

“I have met (1984 Olympic 800m champion) Joaquim Cruz and I have watched him race in a couple of YouTube videos,” Arop says. “Guys like him and David Rudisha are huge role models and inspiration for me and I try to race like them. Front running is my strength.

“Coach Ron would say I can’t run the same as some of the other guys because I am not the same size. If I am in the front, it helps me stay out of trouble and control the race. That’s one thing I like to do – take the pace and decide when and where I should kick.”

“You can’t really take anything for granted,” Arop now says. “You never know who is going to come out on top.

“That’s one thing I want to take into Tokyo: not leaving anything to chance. Prelims and the semifinals and then, in the final – it’s who is having a good day.”

(09/30/2020) Views: 99 ⚡AMP
by World Athletics
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Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games

Fifty-six years after having organized the Olympic Games, the Japanese capital will be hosting a Summer edition for the second time, originally scheduled from July 24 to August 9, 2020, the games were postponed due to coronavirus outbreak, the postponed Tokyo Olympics will be held from July 23 to August 8 in 2021, according to the International Olympic Committee decision....

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